Thursday, August 10, 2006

Third and Third

As I write this, yesterday Oregon State, pretenders to the abbreviation of OSU, won the College World Series (yes, I really did write this in June). I figured it would be a good time to look back at the season of The OSU.

The Buckeyes finished third in the B10 regular season, crippled by a sweep in the heart of darkness. Northwestern shockingly was able to grab second after a horrific non-conference performance. Minnesota had a second consecutive year where they were not a major player in the race for the regular season title, but still qualified for the six-team tournament, which was filled out by Purdue and Illinois.

In the tournament, OSU beat Purdue and Northwestern but were tripped up in the winner’s bracket final by Minnesota and then lost the loser’s bracket final to those who shall not be named. They who shall not be named beat Minnesota two straight as the Gophers for the second straight year placed second in the tournament (to OSU in 2005). So those who shall not be named got the only B10 bid to the NCAA tournament.

While the Buckeyes fell short of a championship, they still had a solid season. Considering all games, OSU was second in W% at 37-21, .638 (those guys led at .672). But the Buckeyes paced the conference in EW%(.721; Minnesota was second at .627) and PW%(.728 with Minnesota second at .628). The Buckeyes also led in R/G(6.66; MSU second at 6.18) and RA/G(4.17; the bad guys second at 4.42). Northwestern’s W%, EW%, and PW% were .411(ninth of ten), .467(fifth), and .417(ninth), a simply bizarre combination for a second-place team. They were lucky that they did not have to face OSU, but even had they played the Bucks and been swept they would have finished in the first division.

With that, I will take a look at the individual performances of OSU players. Incidentally, all of the spreadsheets I used will be posted soon on my website if you are interested. Offensively, the Buckeyes were led by B10 MVP Ronnie Bourquin, the third baseman who was a second round pick to the Tigers. He narrowly missed the B10 triple crown, and hit 416/490/612 with 67 RC, a 12.2 RG(versus a conference average of 5.63, and +36 RAA. As you can see, his ISO was .196, but various scouting reports I saw before the draft said that he had power potential he had not shown in games. I have no trouble believing this, and can certainly understand why nobody on the collegiate level tried to mess with the form of a .400 hitter.

The Ohio offense was solid from top to bottom--sophomore centerfielder and leadoff man Matt Angle improved greatly, with a .449 OBA, 25-29 stealing, and +21. Sophomore catcher Eric Fryer was great again, with more power but less walks then Angle, resulting in nearly identical values(Angle created 54 runs and 9.2 per game; Fryer 54 and 9.2 per game). Senior captain and eighth round Oriole selection Jeddidiah Stephen finished his career at +16, 8.2, and his junior double play partner Jason Zoeller was second to him on the team in isolated power, +11 runs and 7.8 per game.

Junior Jacob Howell struggled through hamstring injuries, but hit a sizzling 402/448/500, 9.9, +15 RAA when able to play. The two weak spots in the lineup were Justin Miller, a freshman first baseman who started slowly but improved as the year went on, finishing at 4.3, -5. Junior rightfielder Wes Schirtzinger struggled greatly at the plate, with 257/321/296, 3.8, -11. The other hitters with over 100 PA were freshman OF/1B/P JB Shuck (6.1, +2) and DH Adam Schneider (4.7, -4).

The Buckeye pitching was solid again, tops in the B10 without a real standout. The ace was junior lefty Dan DeLucia with a 3.67 RA, +27 RAA, and 5.8 K per game, which may be why he went undrafted. Cory Luebke, a 22nd round pick of the Rangers as a draft eligible sophomore was 4.34 and +15. Freshman Jake Hale was the (relative) weak link at 4.92, +7. B10 Freshman of the Year JB Shuck probably looked better with traditional stats, as is 4.56 RA was a full two runs higher then his 2.51 ERA. Shuck, depending on your perspective, was victimized by his defense or had some mistakes obscured by the silly points of the earned run rule. His 4.52 eRA and .298 H/BIP lead me to the latter. But for a freshman, 79 innings and 12 runs above average is nothing to sneeze at.

There were really only four pitchers who got significant innings out of the pen. Rory Meister served as closer and had a 4.36 RA despite a 5.76 eRA. His control was very poor, walking 28 in 33 frames, but his H/BIP was a very high .382. Josh Barerra, a true freshman, had similar issues, walking 20 in 38 innings with a 5.68 RA and 7.16 eRA but a .429 hit rate. Both pitchers struck out a lot of batters and have shown evidence that they can be effective, but certainly need some polish. Trey Fausnaugh was pounded again with a 6.11 RA and 8.13 eRA. As were the other key relievers, he was victimized by a high hit per BIP rate at .409. Dan Barker was good again in 4 starts and 14 relief appearances, with a 4.15 RA and 3.57 eRA.

This was a fairly young team, but with only two (potentially three if Luebke was to sign with Texas) major losses, and a solid performance, it looks as if Ohio State will once again be a major player in the 2007 Big Ten race.

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